27 May 2006

Marx (1938)

1938 - Room Service - This film barely registers as a Marx Bros. film. Sure, the Bros. are present and inhabiting their usual personalities. Sure, there's a Zeppo-ish straight man for them to bounce off of, as well as a clearly defined upper class bad guy. Somehow, however, the Bros. are muted. Groucho doesn't seem as sharp, Harpo isn't as insane and Chico fades into background most of the time. I wasn't surprised at all to learn that this was a Broadway play not written for the Bros. It feels like a standard issue comedy of the era and most of it takes place in the stage-like hotel room.

Another disappointment was Lucille Ball. One of the great female comedians joins the Bros. on a picture, yet she's barely in the film and exists only for exposition. True, this is thirteen years before "I Love Lucy," but it's still disappointing.

The Bros. tried to spice things up with their brand of comedy, but they weren't able to transform this film into their usual madcappery. All was not lost. There are a handful of decently funny scenes in film. The only time they get actual room service was classic Marx as they scramble to consume the food as fast as possible. Harpo repeatedly saying "ah" for the doctor using a squeaking cupie doll got a laugh from me. I thought Donald MacBride did a great job as the perpetually irritated Wagner.

Lucky for the Bros. and us, this is their only RKO film and only script not written specifically for them. (4/10)

d. William A. Seiter